As a 50-plus-year-old model, I represent women of the baby boomer generation, which means I am often asked about my point of view on aging. I have pretty strong opinions about this (as you probably know if you’ve read any of my past blog entries or columns in Experience Life — for those of you who haven’t, see my first entry!), but I’m always curious about others’ perspectives. I’ve heard all sorts of theories and philosophies, but I was caught off guard when, a few years back, a wise teacher of mine shared his thoughts. “Aging,” he said to me, “is the addition of reasons we don’t do things.”
His statement initially struck me as odd, but the longer I thought about it, the truer I realized it was. All my life, I’ve heard myself and others make excuses for not doing things: I’m too tired, too clumsy, too embarrassed, too smart, too short, too tall, too weak, too strong, too scared, too old — the list goes on.
I believe we allow ourselves these excuses because we’re afraid to feel the fear that is lying underneath them — it’s how we convince ourselves that we cannot do or achieve whatever we’re facing. While it may be trying to protect us, it’s that internal voice that all too often prevents us from discovering something new and possibly wonderful, especially as we get older.
As children, we tried everything we possibly could, continuously exploring and discovering new things because we had yet not developed that sense of fear. As adults, we need to unearth that curious inner child because, truth be told, discovering is living.
Whenever I find myself being hesitant about something new, further self-exploration almost always exposes fear at the core of the resistance. I don’t believe there is a way to overcome that fear; it simply is there. I do believe, however, that you can move forward in the face of it. So I muster up my courage and just do it — like the day I graduated from my sky-diving course . . .
I had done the seven required free-fall jumps with my instructors, but in order to get my license, I had to go out solo. There I was, at the open plane door, all alone. Gripped by fear, all I could think about was how easy it would be to close the door and just sit down.
I stood in that moment, trying to decide what I would, should, could do, pondering all the possibilities and outcomes. And then, I let go of it all and let my body fall out of the plane.
I got my heading and looked around: I was in control of everything necessary. At that moment, with the fear behind me, I felt a calm inner joy of accomplishment, relief and peace. I was able to take in all the sensations of free falling. I was in control of my body, my equipment and my mind.
If I had not moved forward in the face of that fear, I would have missed out on an intensely rewarding experience.
My example may be an extreme one, but the fear I faced is the same intense fear that can rule any situation — asking for a raise, telling someone your feelings, embarking on a new adventure. It’s the moment when you decide to move forward in the face of that fear, regardless of the situation, that you are choosing to live, not just survive.
The older I get, the more willing I’ve become to go in the direction of fear and move through my resistances. Sometimes it happens quickly, other times it’s a longer process. But by facing my fears, I’ve discovered more joy, fun and adventure than I ever dreamed possible (as displayed in the photo above).
What fears have you faced head on? How did it feel? I’d love to hear your stories!